Thursday, April 26, 2012

Countdown #18 - what's happening!?!?

Broadcast April-21-2012 - podcast available here.  All comments are from Philip Random's notes (with some editorial diligence).  The full countdown list (so far) can be found here.  Links are not necessarily to the exact same recordings we played on-air, but we tried.
Dead Kennedys - we've got a bigger problem now
If you were even half paying attention in 1978-79, you knew the punk thing wasn't just confined to Britain anymore, but erupting all over.  And it wasn’t nice.  But even so, just hearing the name Dead Kennedys sort of took my breath away.  I mean, wasn't that going too far?  I didn't say it out loud or anything, but there it was – my lily-white, late teenage, small "l" liberal soul exposed.  Not that I even listened to the actual music.  It was just pure trash and exploitation, right?  With a name like Dead Kennedys, how could it not be?  1981's We've Got A Bigger Problem Now finally set me straight.  It was the jazzy bit at the beginning that hooked me, the stuff about happy hour being enforced by law, Hitler's brain juice in a jar, and Emperor Ronald Reagan born again with fascist cravings.  This shit was masterful satire.  Welcome to the 1980s.  Ready or not.

Queen - Modern Times Rock and Roll
Another of those punk-rock-before-there-was-punk-rock selections.  From Queen's first album where they proved they could do pretty anything any other so-called rock band could do, and better.  At least that was the argument in the Grade 9 ghetto down by the metal work room.  "Yeah but they're fags," was the predictable counterargument, which sadly, carried weight in those days.

Public Image Limited - this is not a love song
Call it an anthem for the Winter of Hate.  Because Ian Curtis had killed the love song with Love Will Tear Us Apart and his subsequent suicide.  Which didn't mean love didn't exist anymore.  It had just become a heavier, more dangerous thing.  So if you wanted some easy party fun and action, you just avoided it altogether, trusted in big business (very wise) and free enterprise.  

DOA - general strike
The history books prove otherwise, of course, but I could swear there was a general strike in the mid-80s sometime.  We the People just got so disgusted with the reptiles in charge, we all rose up simultaneously and shut the whole stupid system down.  The asylums were emptied, the schools burned, the banks blown to smithereens, the various politicians, bureaucrats and business leaders strangled with each others intestines.  But I guess it was just a dream.  Anyway, the dream definitely had a soundtrack and DOA's General Strike was the main theme.

Psychedelic Furs - Sister Europe
For some reason, this song always reminds me of a mildly upscale bar in downtown Vancouver (I've long forgotten the name) that had a live parrot in a cage right smack in the middle of the room.  And it was a loud parrot.  No, I don't think they actually played the Psychedelic Furs there.  I doubt they played any cool music.  But maybe we ended up there that night the Furs first played the Commodore, and yeah we'd all gotten good and psychedelicized for the experience.  But now, for whatever reason, all I really remember is the parrot … and the fact that the Psychedelic Furs only ever got worse after that first album.  Too much fur, as I heard it said, not enough psychedelic.  

The Jesus and Mary Chain - April Skies
Proof that underneath all the NOISE and provocation of their early releases, The Jesus And Mary Chain were first and foremost a damned good rock and roll band doing their bit to keep the western world from imploding – or more to the point, encouraging the right kind of implosion.  Stark and raw, bleak but beautiful, like those first hints of spring sunlight after a long, bitter winter.  And the Winter of Hate was definitely long, no question there.  Ended up lasting more than a decade.  

Byrds - What's Happening!?!?
In which David Crosby, the eternal hippie, lays it all out … for eternity.  It's 1966 and the 60s are happening, man.  And yeah he's profoundly confused as only an acid drenched young man can be, but it's not entirely a bad thing (note the question mark and the exclamation mark).  What it is, is a state of spiritual, philosophical and emotional critical mass, a sustained chain reaction of apparently conflicting beliefs, ideas, demands and feelings that challenge us to evolve an entirely fresh and conceivably radical new point of reference, man.  

Cure - Hanging Garden
Way earlier on in this list, I stated that I'd lost this album (Pornography) sometime in the late 80s, which was a pity because it was the best Cure album, and it was conceivable that every song on it belonged on the list.  Well, I've since found it, and in great shape (buried in among a bunch of K-tel compilations – go figure).  But it turns out I was wrong.  Every song doesn't belong on the list.  A little too much murk.  But Hanging Garden definitely belongs.  A bleak chunk of 1982 in all its dark splendor.  The rains of eternal winter were falling hard, but still we struggled for some light.

Amon Duul 2 - Phallus Dei jamming [randoEDIT]
It's no surprise that German hippies were the most extreme (given what their dads and granddads had perpetrated across all Europe and most of the world barely three decades previous).  And no single musical crowd took it further than the original Amon Duul, hanging out with terrorists, taking the political so far they quickly ceased to be a band at all.  So they split.  Amon Duul 2 were the ones that kept making music, not that they'd lost must edge on 1969's Phallus Dei (Latin for God's Dick), a fierce and psychedelic cauldron of rhythm, wailing … and jamming.

Talking Heads - memories can't wait
Three albums in and I finally got Talking Heads.  Strangely, it was a radio commercial that hooked me, late 1979 as I recall.  No music, just a voice repeating (with various weird effects) "Talking Heads have a new album.  It's called Fear of Music."  But of course, the cool rock station that played the ad wasn't actually playing the album.  They couldn't.  Not unless the consultants told them to.  And how could the consultants recommend something as strange and good as Talking Heads?  No, you had to actually go out and buy Fear of Music, or borrow it from a friend, tape it to cassette, kill the whole stupid industry.  It was a huge task but somebody had to do it.

Rupert Hine - I hang onto my vertigo
The initial full-on bile and rage of punk was well past us by 1981, which didn't mean everything was suddenly nice again.  Just not as loud and violent.  Case in point, Rupert Hine's Immunity, an album of deep shadows, strange eruptions, queasy feelings of madness, suspicion, and vertigo which had to be hung onto.  For it was proof of life.    

Neil Young - danger bird
It's the mid-70s.  The high dreams of the 60s are just that – dreams fading fast or gone altogether.  If you're Neil Young, you're hanging out in sunny California, feeling a decade older than you were three years ago, but at least the drugs are good, and sometimes the smog ain't so bad, particularly when Crazy Horse drops by.  Just plug in and play so loud it actually cuts the haze, and mystical birds of great danger are seen soaring high, fierce and beautiful.

Brian Eno - the great pretender
It says 1974 on the cover but Taking Tiger Mountain will always be pure 1981 for me.  Weird and edgy pop that was not at all afraid to just fall apart at times, dissolve into full-on abstraction.  Which was fine by me given all the acid I was doing at the time.  I needed those dissolutions, like at the end of The Great Pretender when the crickets (or whatever they are) just take over, suck us into the insect realm, pristine and strange.

Todd Rundgren - healing
The genius of Todd Rundgren is he can do anything.  Pop, soul, rock, experimental.  The worst thing about Todd Rundgren is that's exactly what he does way too often.  Anything and everything, all at the same time.  But every now and then, he just lays back and just goes with something, like the second side of Healing (the title track).  It's 1981 and drum machines and synths are in, and, genius that he is, Todd knows exactly what to do with them. 

No comments:

Post a Comment